Friday, 25 October 2013

London life: Debate, discussion and misunderstanding

The heavens are caressing London with  golden light and the trees in Hyde Park bring out their golden robes in return.
All is well in this the greatest and freest city on earth!

It is Elena's birthday. To celebrate we go the The Landmark Hotel on the Marylebone Road for afternoon tea: me, Elena, her Mum and one of her sons and his girlfriend. A happy and harmless crew.
The solicitous doorman is kind and considerate as he shows us how to get the wheelchair conveying Elena's Mum into the cafe.
We are seated in the voluptuous setting of the atrium cafe and champagne is served.
Elena's Mum is beaming with happiness, pride and joy.

But alas - it is fearfully expensive. I ask the waiter if we can buy just one afternoon tea and share it. We are not very hungry. The waiter must ask the manager. No, we must buy three. This would amount to £126. Surely, I persist, since the cafe is virtually empty, and we are drinking the champagne (not cheap either - at £76!), you can bend the rule for once. The manager appears and firmly insists that the rule cannot be broached. If we consume less than three afternoon teas, we will have to sit in another part of the hotel. This would mean us reseating Baboushka in her wheelchair and going up to another floor.
We decline, amazed by the lack of initiative allowed The Landmark workforce. I was tempted to ask if I would have to ask the manager if I could use the lavatory.

Still, it was a pleasure only partly spoilt, and we walked across to The Frontline Club in Paddington (The Journalists Club) to listen to a discussion about the future of Russia and the fate of the oligarch Khodorkovsky.

The former British ambassador to Russia Sir Tony Brenton thought that things were getting better and that the rule of law will one day prevail in Russia, whereas it is perhaps a little patchy now.
We should welcome their money, he said, and that will be good for us and for Russia.
Other speakers disagreed. The money is tainted and our taking it discredits us.

Later, we are dining in the restaurant below, discussing this issue.
I take the view that it is a matter of balance, but to illustrate my point, say that we should not have wanted to trade with Hitler's Germany if the conditions were that we were not allowed to trade with Jewish people, or with Stalin's Russia if we were forced to trade with companies that employed Gulag labour.

Suddenly, a woman sitting at the table next to us leaned across.

" I would be very careful if I were you" she said, and continued, " I'm jewish, and I heard what you said"

Now of course, she only heard half of what I had said.

But that's how wars start, isn't it?

Somewhat dismayed, because she persisted in threatening me, we left.

Ah well, nowhere is perfect.

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